Monday, December 18, 2006

Censured PBS Bunny Returns

How does a popular PBS children's program find itself in the cross-hairs of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and the Religious Right? By daring to tell children the truth.

"Postcards From Buster," a popular PBS children's program, found itself on the Education Secretaries radar screen in January 2005, when it dared to schedule a program about maple sugaring, called "Sugartime!," that featured children in a Vermont family with two moms.

Dennis Gaffney, in The New York Times, writes:
What happens to a children's public television show after it has been attacked by the secretary of education, pilloried by conservatives, then abandoned by its underwriters? In the case of "Postcards From Buster," it manages to return, belatedly but unbowed, for a second season.
While children love the program, Spellings and the American Family Association clearly don't.

Spellings attacked the "Sugartime!" episode in a letter to Pat Mitchell, the former PBS president, (dated Jan. 25, 2005) saying:
"many parents would not want their young children exposed to the life-styles portrayed in this episode."
AFA then orchestrated a campaign that generated more than 150,000 e-mail messages and letters to Ms. Spellings supporting her position.

"Postcards From Buster," produced by WGBH (the Boston PBS station), manages to approach even intensely political topics, like the war in Iraq and the aftereffects of Katrina, in an apolitical manner. Pierre Valette, one of the executive producers of "Postcards," says Buster does this by looking at the world through a child's eyes.

Brigid Sullivan, vice president for children's programming at WGBH, said:
"We were proud of "Postcards From Buster," and we are proud of "Postcards From Buster." ... "It's a children's show dealing with diversity by showing real kids in real-life situations. That's not being done by anyone else."
The New York Times reports:
The Education Department's Ready-to-Learn program, which had largely financed the first season of "Postcards" with $5 million through PBS, rewrote its grant to eliminate the call for cultural diversity, and PBS did not pursue that grant for Season 2. Neither the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is controlled by Congress and provided funds for Season 1, nor the traditional corporate sponsors of PBS children"s programming would underwrite the show.
Instead of the 40 episodes produced for the first season, "Postcards From Buster" will have only 10 new episodes for season 2.

If you would like to support "Postcards From Buster" visit WGBH's website, and make a contribution today!

Or contact your local PBS station and make sure they air "Postcards From Buster."

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